Julia Dunn takes a closer look at Russia, probably the biggest surprise so far in the Women’s division following their rise from ninth in Europe to World quarter-finalists.
Russia’s Women’s team, the fourth seed in pool D going into the tournament, made their mark on the tournament today by upsetting the second seed Australia. Beating all their competitors except Colombia thus far, the dynamic squad showed that intense defence wins games. Coming in seventh place at EUC last year, the team has really grown in the past year leading up to Worlds.
The team led Australia comfortably by one or two points the entire game. Russia played a very systematic and controlled game, making all the right decisions. Their handlers have ease in creating power positions by moving the disc at low stall counts. Olga Kochenova, an amazing handler, opened up the entire field with her inside breaks. Aleksandra Pustovaya also contributed to the fast disc movement for Russia. Australia scored on only one break the entire game because of Russia’s fast transitions and tight defence.
Russia put on amazing defensive pressure that stifled Australia’s offensive flow. The team focused on hard man defence the entire day, stalling both Australia’s (and France’s in the following game) flow. Kochenova and Margarita Parshukova had a number of Ds each. In the end, Natalya Mashyanova threw a beautiful inside break for the score to Natalia Shebunyaeva to secure their second seed before pre-quarters (15-12). Russia stormed the field, celebrating the biggest upset of the Women’s division.
Despite the score difference, the game felt extremely tight and spirited. The Australians fought hard for every point. Simone Ryan, a dominant receiver, scored most of the points for Australia, connecting with Cat Phillips a number of times. Despite the loss, Australia still entered quarters, and will face Japan in the morning.
Later that day, pre-quarters did not present a challenging match-up for Russia. The talented squad easily beat France. Russia pulled into the back of the end zone multiple times, a location where France could not handle the stifling defence. Russia found Inga Ivakina with a lay out bid in the end zone to finish the game (15-11).
Russia meets powerhouse Canada today, who have only lost to Japan. Canada’s team predominately boasts Vancouver Traffic members that have played together for years. Both teams have a similar style of play with fast transitions, a systematic offence and shutdown defence. Russia has demonstrated that they belong to the top of European Ultimate, but can they compete with the teams across the pond?